Tamir Goodman is Back
Say this for the Maryland NightHawks: no local team can touch their press conferences. Last year, you might remember, the NightHawks introduced 7-foot-9 Chinese sensation Sun Ming Ming at an event featuring Chinese food from Meiwah and guest appearances from Redskins receiver James Thrash and former Redskins guard Tre' Johnson.
Today, the featured newcomer was Jewish sensation Tamir Goodman, on the first day of Hanukkah no less, at Georgetown Prep, which happens to be a Jesuit school, where the tables were decorated with Santa Claus centerpieces and the spread of deli meats included copious amounts of ham.
"But it's kosher ham," the PR person said, without missing a beat.
Goodman, of course, is the fabled "Jewish Jordan," whose prep career burned bright, starting at Baltimore's Talmudical Academy and then at Takoma Academy, before basketball earned him a scholarship offer at Maryland (which
was later rescinded he eventually declined), sending him to play briefly for Towson, and then to a pro career in Israel. He played five season in Israel, got married, had two kids, served in the Army, moved down to the second division and planned to finish his career in that country, before he heard that the Maryland NightHawks had recently left the American Basketball Association and formed a new outfit, the 10-team Premier Basketball League, which will start games in 2008. And if any team was going to go out of its way to lure America's most famous orthodox Jewish baller, it was the NightHawks.
"I will never back away from this: you've got to be self-promoting," said Tom Doyle, the owner of the NightHawks and CEO of the PBL, whose commissioner will be TNT's Kenny Smith. "It's survival. Look, you've got to get eyeballs on this league. I just don't believe in doing what everybody else does."
And so today's press extravaganza was hardly limited to Goodman. There was, for example, NightHawks new head coach Lawrence Moten, the Archbishop Carroll and Syracuse legend whose playing days recently ended in Spain, and who now wants to enter the coaching profession. This is his first official coaching job.
"But I'm a natural," said Moten, 33. "It's an easy game. People make it hard."
("I can't believe I got to meet him," Goodman said of his new coach."Pretty cool.")
There was also another new signee, Tyron "The Black Widow" Allan "Alimoe" Evans, a 30-year old who gained fame through the And 1 Mix Tape Tour, and also played organized ball with the Harlem Strong Dogs and the Brooklyn Kings. I was curious about his nicknames.
"I never understood that name," he said of "The Black Widow." "I thought that was somebody's wife. Then they told me that was a spider."
The team's top two picks from the first PBL draft lottery were also introduced: Johan Matos, from Magruder High and Montgomery College, and Kevin Rogus, from Good Counsel and Harvard. Rogus spent the past two years working 100-hour weeks in portfolio analytics on Wall Street before deciding he wanted to give basketball one more shot. I asked what percentage pay cut this involved.
"I don't know, is there a percentage for that?" he joked. "Money will come later. You only live once. If you don't follow your dreams, then why are you living?"
Which sounded like something Goodman might have said. The 25-year old, a 6-foot-3-and-a-half pass-first point guard who can still dunk, never figured he'd be able to play pro ball in America, because he can't play on the Jewish Sabbath. The PBL has ensured that none of his home games will conflict with the Sabbath, and will make appropriate arrangements for road games, which Goodman said was "really, in my eyes, a miracle." He said the blessing of the PBL has brought tears to his grandmother's eyes, that he wanted to offer thanks on behalf of the worldwide Jewish community, that the NightHawks have "broken down all barriers, and I just hope God will bless us for that and for everything you've done."
The rest of the event was filled with basketball people making nice. Goodman told of translating Alimoe's video-taped And1 exploits from English to Hebrew for Israeli kids. Alimoe said he didn't care about the religion thingg; "All I care about is basketball," he said. "Basketball is like a way of life." Goodman's brother David promised Doyle that Tamir was "such a good boy; you're going to be proud." "I'm not just saying that because he's my brother," he addied." The street-ballers and the Jewish hope said that after 10 minutes of gabbing they felt like they've known each other for years--"like we went to public school together," Alimoe said. And NightHawks star Randy "White Chocolate" Gill, outfitted in a Washington Wizards shirt and Washington Wizards jacket, predicted good things from Goodman.
"I love his attitude," White Chocolate said. "He wants to give me the ball already."
As for Goodman, he said he never asked for the "Jewish Jordan" label and never wanted it, but that he's thrilled to be back home and wants to play basketball "as long as I can."
"I love every second," he said. "I feel like I'm the luckiest, most blessed person in the world. I've been able to live my dream."
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